Frederick Robin Bird, known as Robin, passed away peacefully in Winchester on 31 March 2015, at 85 years of age. He left his wife Margaret, 10 children, 30 grandchildren, numerous great-grandchildren, a sister, a publishing house and a charity.
Robin was born on 10 November 1929 in Alderford, Norfolk, into a farming family, and farming remained an abiding interest throughout his life. As a young man he left Norfolk for Australia to make his fortune and, by dint of determination, imagination and energy, quickly established himself as a leading figure in poultry farming and processing, eventually supplying the P&O shipping line.
It was at this time that he met and married his wife Margaret at the Methodist church he attended, but, although a leader in the church, he was at heart a man of the world. It was at a youth convention that he heard of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and this truth gripped his heart and would not leave him.
His ambition to become rich evaporated and he sold his farm and business and returned to Britain with a deep hunger to know God. 16 January 1958 was a day that changed his life. As he sat in a waiting room in a Bible college in Glasgow, he had a dramatic experience of God which totally transformed him. He met the risen Lord Jesus.
Regular attendance at Westminster Chapel, along with a course at London Bible College from 1958-1961, equipped him for further Christian ministry, and he returned to Australia to work as the representative for the Banner of Truth.
This was his first venture into the world of Christian publishing. However, becoming concerned that little was available for Christians who would not read academic tomes, he returned to the UK and, with the encouragement of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, established Evangelical Press in 1964.
Booklets were a rarity in the evangelical world at this time and the fledgling company struggled to grow. A breakthrough came with the publication of the first volume of Dr Lloyd-Jones’s sermons on Ephesians, but then the company was sold and Robin returned to Australia.
For several years he worked for Emu Publications and Katoomba Bible College. He pastored several churches and worked a brief spell with Slavic Gospel Association.
1982 found Robin and Margaret back in the UK and settled in Alresford in Hampshire, where they ran a Christian bookshop.
In 1995, as Robin’s retirement began, Robin and Margaret embarked on the greatest adventure of their lives, and the one that became dearest to Robin’s heart. Becoming increasingly aware of the needs of pastors in Africa for sound Christian books and solid training, Robin established ‘Christian Books for Africa’, obtaining books at low prices and compiling book sets for pastors in the African continent and beyond.
Robin and Margaret travelled to Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe, forging strong friendships everywhere they went. Robin remained committed to prayerful support of this work after he handed it over, at the age of 79, to Pastor Training International.
As cancer sapped his vigour in the closing months of his life, Robin continued to find great delight in the Scriptures, the writings of Dr Lloyd-Jones and his favourite hymns.
During his final days, with his family around him, he could still offer a witty riposte, with a twinkle in his eye. Until the end, his heart found rest in his Saviour, and, as he fell asleep, the words on his lips were, ‘Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee. Amen’.